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Locals blast subdivision plan -- News Roundup

Proposed revisions to the city’s subdivision ordinance failed the popularity test at a public hearing before the Bainbridge Island City Council this week.

Developers and residents who want to subdivide their properties told the council Wednesday that required buffers would leave them no room to build homes or even maintain gardens. Others said the regulations would be confiscatory and spark litigation.

“I would refer to this as an annuity for (city attorney Rod) Kaseguma,” islander Mike Olson told the council, “because there will be lawsuits over it.”

The city has for years required a percentage setaside of “open space” with new subdivisions. But the council’s land use committee has been wrestling with code changes for six months, since the Washington State Supreme Court struck down similar requirements imposed by the city of Camas.

Under a draft ordinance presented Wednesday, the city would instead rely on buffers, building setbacks and retention of “significant” trees to maintain green space in new projects.

Critics said Wednesday that the regulations are unworkable in small-lot subdivisions, and ridiculed the notion of screening residential developments from one another.

Kelly Samson, who has been working on large- and small-lot subdivisions at the south end, was one of several speakers to suggest that there is more to “island character” than treed buffers. The regulations, he said, would preclude such rural features as the pastures found in Eagledale.

Samson also noted that local public facilities such as firehouses and the municipal court building “don’t have a lick of screening” in front of them.

“That might be a good place to run lead, rather than trying to dictate and babysit the rest of us,” Samson said.

A workshop on the ordinance is slated for 6-8 p.m. March 5 in the council chambers. A moratorium on new subdivisions continues until new regulations are adopted.

In a separate action Wednesday, the council extended until Sept. 1 another moratorium, this one on construction of new docks and bulkheads on island shorelines.

The current moratorium, imposed while the council drafts a new shoreline management plan, was set to expire March 1.

The council did add a new exemption to the moratorium, for construction of recreational floats for sailing and rowing teams. Already exempted are repairs to existing docks and bulkheads.

The extension came despite the criticism of several waterfront owners, who said the moratorium was impeding plans for a dock extension and other projects.

– Douglas Crist

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***Board splits

on park search

A divided Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District board will eschew the use of a professional “headhunter” in the search for a new director.

By a 3-2 vote Thursday, the board decided to keep the search process local, even if the search itself goes region-wide or national.

“I don’t think headhunters really do that much good, honestly,” park commissioner Tom Swolgaard said. “We’re going to make the decision. We need to be the most informed.”

Swolgaard joined commissioners Dave Shorett and Kirk Robinson in approving a search process to be administered within the district, with the assistance of community members.

Voting in the minority was commissioner Dane Spencer, who argued that bringing in an executive search firm would be more objective and wouldn’t burden district staff with inquiries and paperwork.

Shorett said he was troubled by the cost of bringing in such a firm – estimated at $25,000 – when the district successfully managed its own search process five years ago in bringing in Dave Lewis.

Lewis leaves next week to take a parks position with the city of Arcadia, Calif.

Several argued that the commissioners should be able to review all applications for the post, not just a few finalists that had been winnowed down by a headhunter.

“I think there are some values in this community that may not be readily apparent to a search firm,” Robinson said.

Lewis’ last task as director will be to craft a new job description for the position he’s leaving. Once a salary range is determined, the post will be advertised in professional journals and other publications related to park service.

Commissioners held out the possibility of bringing in a professional search firm if the process mires.

“If this thing starts flailing, I can jump the fence pretty quick,” Robinson said.

In the interim, the board named Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center manager John DeMeyer as acting director. The move was supported by the district’s employees.

– Douglas Crist

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***Creek named for Cooper clan

A stream feeding Eagle Harbor at the Head of the Bay has been named Cooper Creek, city officials announced this week.

The creek will be dedicated with placement of a sign by the public works department, with a ceremony set for 1:30 p.m. March 6.

The formerly anonymous creek is being named for the Al Cooper family, who resided at the “Lazy C Ranch” across which it flows at the Wyatt Way/Bucklin Hill Road. The family lived on the property for 52 years, and many long-timers refer to it as “Cooper’s Corner.”

When the Coopers came to Bainbridge Island from Ohio, they moved into the Finch house that now is home to San Carlos Restaurant, later moving to the Head of the Bay. They operated a dry goods store called the Trading Post at the foot of Parfitt Way.

In 1955, Al Cooper wrote to the state concerning water rights on the Bucklin Hill property, and expressed a desire to preserve the creek for salmon spawning. His stewardship apparently worked; last year, several large salmon were spotted there, public works officials said.

The city owns about 35 acres of green space to the northwest, protecting much of the creek from development.

When Al Cooper died last year, the family parcel was considered for an open space purchase, but it was sold to a private party.

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***Garden expert in benefit talk

Dan Hinkley, famed co-founder of Heronswood Nursery in Kingston, lectures on “Punctuation, Exclamation, Accentuation: the Importance of Texture in the Garden” 12 p.m. at Woodward Middle School for Soroptimist International of Greater North Kitsap’s eighth annual garden show and sale.

A “plantman” with reputed expertise in both botany and educational outreach, Hinkley has traveled worldwide in search of plants and their native habitat.

Hinkley, who writes for Martha Stewart’s magazine and appears on her TV show, will be available to answer questions and sign his books.

The plant sale and show runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Woodward, and features vendors selling plants, bulbs, shrubs, seeds, baskets, herbs and garden art.

Proceeds benefit Helpline House and Poulsbo’s Fishline. General admission: $5, children under 12 free; the Hinkley presentation at noon is $20 (includes show and sale). Information: (360) 337-1111.

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